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Great Valley Writing Project
K-12 students become published writers in 2 weeks
Matthew Triglia, a student at St. Anthony of Padua School in Manteca, reviews the iMOVIE project he made while attending the two-week Great Valley Writing Project at the Woodward School site. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Meet the 158 newly minted published authors in the Manteca Unified School District and surrounding areas.

It took these elementary and high school students only two summer weeks to reach that accomplishment. That achievement was made possible by the Great Valley Writing Project & Technology Workshops offered every summer in Manteca, Ripon and Lathrop.

The first two groups “graduated” from this two-week intensive program on Friday at Woodward Elementary in Manteca, and at Ripon Elementary and Ripon High. That graduation was highlighted by the publication of an anthology containing the students’ writings – stories, essays and poems – which can be viewed at the student-created website This website also contains additional information about the program plus weblinks that direct the visitor to view the students’ other projects as well as photographs showing them in action.

This summer, a total of 158 students were involved in both the Manteca and Ripon workshops – 102 students in Ripon which opened the class to students from kindergarten to high school, and 56 students at Woodward School who will be entering third to eighth grade this fall.

Ripon had 41 teachers on board; in Manteca there were 15 writing mentors which included high school and college students. The student-teacher/mentor ratio was at least one teacher for every four students.

In addition to being mentored in creative writing – master composition strategies, editing techniques, and utilizing multimedia tools – the program participants were assisted by the teen-aged coaches in constructing website pages and creating digital anthologies of the students’ work.

At the final day of the two-week classes at Woodward School, parents had the opportunity to listen to their children read their original works and to view their web design projects in the school’s computer lab.

In addition to the writing projects, the students learned how to make movie trailers using iMOVIE software program, how to use iPads, and how to use PowerPoint.

“I’m amazed at what they did in two weeks; I’m impressed,” said Michelle Crippen, the Woodward program coordinator, as she proudly clutched a bound hard copy of the 2014 anthology which was edited and compiled by Noah Ledesma.

The parents were equally impressed, as well as excited to see what their children had accomplished in the last two weeks.

“I’m in education, so I know it’s a great program,” said Brian Murphy whose two daughters were among those enrolled at Woodward – Emily, 8, and Nora, 10. Murphy is the principal at Great Valley Academy in Ceres, the sister school of the charter academy of the same name on Button Avenue in Manteca. The two girls are GVA students.

Murphy enrolled his children in the Great Valley Writing Project because GVA does not have a summer school, he explained.

While his two girls were not very enthused to attend the summer program initially, once they got started they couldn’t stop reading and writing once they got home, Murphy said.

It was hard to tell who was more excited – Maria and Juan Napoles or their 8-year-old twin sons Anthony and Giovanni. Dad Juan took time off from his business in Tracy to be at Woodward on Friday.

“This is so exciting! They were so excited about writing because they love to read books,” a smiling Maria said about their two boys who were busy showing their parents some of their movie trailers in the computer lab.

Their son, Anthony, has been interested in writing about comic books since first grade, she said. Giovanni, she said, “likes reading.”

Coming home after the first day of the summer class, Maria said her son Giovanni told her, “Mommy, I can make my own invitations already,” using the computer.

“I learned a lot of stuff,” grinned 9-year-old Matthew Triglia, a fourth grader at St. Anthony of Padua School in Manteca as he proudly showed his mom Lisa, his iMOVIE creation, “My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother.” Matthew is an only child; the brother in his movie is imaginary.

The next writing and technology workshop will be held at River Islands Technology Academy in Lathrop. It is scheduled for July 14-25. Information and enrollment weblinks are available at

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Non-profit workshops help both students and teachers

These non-profit workshops are sponsored by the Great Valley Writing Project at California State University, Stanislaus and the San Joaquin County Office of Education. The teachers involved and technology instructors are all credentialed, hence are professionally equipped to assist the budding authors develop their creative and academic writing talents.

“These writing programs are unique,” said program coordinator Melissa King in a media statement. “The first Writing & Technology Workshop opened in 2005 when a small group of teachers wanted to study new ways to teach kids about writing. Today, the workshops operate on four school campuses in south San Joaquin County, drawing more than 80 teachers and over 200 students each summer.”

Added Robin Alexander, who co-leads K-3 grade instruction at the Ripon workshop with a team of GVWP teacher consultants, “It’s like a writing camp for both students and teachers. Experienced classroom teachers lend support and encouragement to writers of all abilities, and, at the same time, the teachers learn new and better ways to teach writing in their classrooms.”

Technology plays a major role in every workshop. Laptops and iPads are used to support research, and fourth- to 12th-grade students use computers daily to compose, polish, and publish their work.

Great Valley Writing Project is entirely funded by donations from the community and does not receive a cent from taxpayers’ money. About half of the parents pay a registration fee, with the remaining costs supported by contributions from local businesses and generous private individuals. This dual-funding system ensures that students from low-income families can take part in the program on full scholarships, and that registration fees remain affordable for those families.

For any other questions about the Great Valley Writing Project, contact Melissa King at 209.838.2115 or send her an email at You can also visit the GVWP website at